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Scrapping of NECO, UTME: Senate summons education minister, others

Senate has waded into the proposed scrapping of the National Examinations Council (NECO) as well as the Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examination (UTME) by the Federal Government. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Uche Chukwumerije said a meeting would be convened to “examine the full implications of government intention.”

Should government go ahead with the proposal, at least four million Nigerian students would be left stranded in the hands of an over-stretched West African Examination Council (WAEC), said Chukwumerije. In a personally signed statement issued in Abuja at the weekend, the Senate Education Committee Chairman said scrapping of NECO and UTME would adversely affect Nigeria’s educational sector, just as he urged the Federal Government to throw open the proposal to stakeholders in the education sector. Eliminating NECO and UTME, said Chukwumerije, would mean that state institutions in Nigeria would produce poorly trained secondary students, which would jeopardise the country’s future.

A source close to the committee told Daily Sun that in addition to “meeting to take a position on government’s proposal, we will most likely invite the education minister to brief us on what informed such critical decisions without the approval of the National Assembly because these two institutions are corporate bodies set up by enabling Acts.” Chukwumerije said, “NECO and JAMB are the main national examination bodies conducting critical examinations for entry into the different levels of educational institutions for Nigerian students.

NECO conducts the National Common Entrance Examinations (NCEE), the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) respectively for primary, basic and senior secondary education students. On its part, the UTME, conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), is the entrance examination into Nigerian tertiary institutions. NECO and UTME are therefore very vital to the educational advancement for the youths of the nation. “In scrapping NECO, the indication is that its functions will revert to WAEC.

A very serious concern is whether WAEC, as constituted, has the capacity to exclusively conduct its current schedule of examinations and, in addition, all the examinations currently conducted by NECO. “The increased workload will exacerbate the problem of poor handling of the certificate examinations of the ever increasing population of secondary school leavers which is expected, in an anticipated bulge, to exceed four million in the next few years. Clarity of national focus may be blurred, too.”

WAEC is a regional examination body owned by four countries and caters to the international needs of the region. NECO, on the other hand, is a wholly Nigeria-owned examination body, just as exists in several countries of the world. NECO, indeed, should not be seen as duplication for WAEC but as a national examination body with responsibility to assess diverse, strictly Nigerian, development-related subjects/interests such as technology and entrepreneurship. “For example, Britain has eight examination bodies with each evaluating a specific level of examination or a national area of interest.

Lastly on the Nigerian national education space, NECO is an important monitoring post for the quality of education at the primary, basic and senior secondary levels and scrapping it will deny the nation of the critical signals its results portend.” On UTME, he said: “Scrapping of the examination emasculates the JAMB of one of its primary responsibilities to set and conduct harmonized examinations for admission of students into Nigerian tertiary institutions.

“Reverting matriculation examinations to individual tertiary institutions can easily have serious negative implications where most of the institutions will admit students almost exclusively from their local environments, thus defeating the universality of higher education and the national demands of the Nigerian Project. “This is cognizant that today most host communities of tertiary educational institutions stoutly insist that the heads of such institutions and most of the workers exclusively come from their communities. Localization of University Education will receive a free fall into more insular compartmentalization.

“In the light of the above, I see the recent announcement of government’s intention to scrap NECO and UTME as: (a) seeming to perpetuate the unfortunate pattern of policy somersaults that has persistently limited progress in education sectors. “If the proposed scrapping takes place, it does not require a seer to forecast a new swirl of reversals in the next five years. Not dealing with some of the key problems of the education sector – access, quality, funding and institutional management. In fact, this proposal is likely to exacerbate them.

“It is important therefore to note four points:- i. Access, as hinted earlier, will suffer – this time with a hint of anarchy in its train: increased temptations to university of authorities to cut corners in obeying rules on carrying capacities and unaccredited courses, and new fertile grounds for mushroom of unlicensed institutions. This scrapping will open a Pandora’s box that will surely strain the capacity of regulatory agencies; especially NUC; (ii) NECO and UTME are monitoring posts for the quality of studies in pre-university education.

“They define the quality of the student entrants into our tertiary institutions. Their results serve as annual national indicators of quality of Nigerian education. Poor results in past years have set off national alarms… “The huge disparity of funding between federal and state educational institutions is exposed by NECO and UTME results as the levels of investment in teaching and learning facilities as well as in staff welfare reflect directly on the achieved results.

“Eliminating NECO and UTME, therefore, will mask this unfortunate disparity, and state institutions in Nigeria can continue to produce poorly trained secondary students… “The indications above show that the basic problems limiting the education sector are unrelated to the current intention of government to scrap NECO and UTME.

It is my view that government should open the subject up to full discussion in order that the best interest of Nigeria and its teeming student population is primarily served. “On resumption from the Easter and non-plenary session recess, the Senate Committee on Education will meet to formally examine the full implications of the government intention,” said Chukwumerije.